Prosecution rests its case in Joseph Belstadt trial

Mandy Steingasser Cold Case

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) ⁠— The prosecution in the Joseph Belstadt trial rested Tuesday evening after calling its last witnesses.

Tuesday’s witnesses included a man who served time in state prison with Belstadt, who testified about a conversation he said the two had back then.

Belstadt is accused of killing 17-year-old Mandy Steingasser in 1993.

Christopher Grassi testified he used to hang out with Belstadt in the yard at Cayuga Correctional Facility.

He said one day they were talking about threesomes and Belstadt said he’d been involved with a girl and a friend of his.

Grassi testified Belstadt said he was driving a car while his friend was having sex with the girl in the backseat then the two strangled her by mistake. He testified Belstadt said they placed her in a wooded area they knew from partying.

Belstadt was at the facility for torching a stolen car; Grassi was there for paying someone to set his nightclub on fire to collect insurance money.

On cross-examination, Grassi admitted he was trying to get out on parole at the time he talked to police.

Defense attorney Michelle Bergevin called him nothing but a fraudster.

Bergevin accused Grassi of not even knowing Belstadt. She asked him about his desire to get out on parole when he found out North Tonawanda police were visiting the prison looking for information about Belstadt.

She then accused Grassi of paying another inmate who knew Belstadt to give him information to give to the police in exchange for his parole.

That inmate died earlier this year.

Grassi also said it’s true he only talked to police to benefit himself. He also admitted he couldn’t recall exactly what Belstadt told him that day, saying whatever is in his statement is what he remembers.

The statement wasn’t placed in evidence or shown to the jury.

District attorney Brian Seaman asked Grassi whether he’d already received a decision about his parole before talking to police.

Grassi said he was fairly confident he’d get parole.

Also Tuesday, an autopsy expert, pathologist Dr. James Terzian testified Steingasser died from being strangled with her own bra which was found tied around her neck.

He also said Steingasser had a fracture on her skull, which he said happened while she was still alive because the autopsy showed bleeding under her scalp.

Senior forensic criminalist Keith Paul Meyers testified while neither Belstadt or Steingasser’s DNA were found in her underwear, DNA from Steingasser’s boyfriend at the time, Christopher Palesh, was found in two spots on the panties.

He also testified body fluid DNA can survive up to three laundry cycles.

Court resumes Friday at 9:15 a.m. The judge said the jury could get the case as soon as Friday and by Monday at the latest.

Kayla Green is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.

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